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Haunting and ethereal. These are the two words that could embody the entire spectrum of descriptors when contemplating the qualities within the sound created by Mazzy Star. So Tonight That I Might See had one lone radio hit. A minor blip on the pop music radar that came at time when everything was alternative – no matter how wide its appeal, nor its actual genre of origin. “Fade into You” was a dreamy, somber resignation of a song, with aspirations larger than the band and the moment from which it drew forth. With a quivering slide guitar, a modest chord progression and airy vocals, “Fade into You” was a once in a decade ballad, capable of branding a moment in time. A California pixie, floating on a psychedelic plane, Hope Sandival is without a doubt the strongest instrument in her band. Soft as tissue and light enough to drift for miles, her voice creates a hologram of sound that establishes itself as the focal point of every song it bestows itself upon. Formed in the late ’80s, Mazzy Star was the combined effort of guitarist and songwriter, David Roback, and Sandival, the ghostly-voiced frontwoman/lyricist. In 1990, they released a debut, She Hangs Brightly, which received about as much attention as Hope’s stature commands. It wasn’t until unearthing the career defining hit on 1993 sophomore release, So Tonight That I Might See, that anyone would take much notice.

The immense weight of the album’s lone hit single severely imbalances the record for those not prepared for (or expecting) a journey into lifeless abyss. Accessibility takes a plunge after the opening draw of “Fade Into You.” While the album as a whole is a well executed exploration into moody territory, the overall sound of the record is suited for contemplative relaxation and introspection, with individual tracks less independently sturdy than the album opener. Immediate intimacy and aural appeal is less discernible throughout the remainder of the listen. This does not, however, create for a weak offering. It only makes the fruits more esoteric.

Hope floats her other-worldly vocal across the dreamy haze of instrumentation on “Bells Ring.”Rich in seduction, her voice is a soothing breeze – a breath of melody and polished-smooth drawl; Lyrics nearly inaudible, strewn over a backdrop of alternating chords and tamborine. A bad mushroom trip manifesting as a song, “Mary of Silence” slows the album down to a near halt, with each bpm unwillingly forced into existence. The verse’s lyrics expressed through a tripped-out string of incoherence, lost amidst a bed of reverb and wavering pitch; The stylistic manifestation of Roback’s understated approach. Three arpeggiated chords make up the simple beauty of “Five String Senenade,” one of the albums finest moments. Simple, delicate and minimal in nature, the track could be considered runner-up for album’s best. With little deviation, So Tonight That I Might See never tries to do too much, but continuously achieves its specific intentions with commendable results. “Wasted,” rooted in its distortion-riddled, electric blues riff, is the punchiest of the album’s ten compositions, but is still a laid back excursion, by any conventional standard. Album closer, “So Tonight That I Might See,” introduces Native American inspired percussion and the intermittent tamborine crash, covered over with a spoken-word vocal, executed with the trademark passive enthusiasm demonstrated throughout the record.

Songs on So Tonight That I Might See bleed together, unwavering in their solumn resolve to remain completely subdued, resistant to any kind of hope or need to pick themselves up; Instead, content to wallow in limp, listless misery. Ambivalent to its self-imposed constraints, the album flows as a consistent, tangent sentence, drawn out across a dreamy, dusty landscape. Certainly not the most exciting record to ever meet the needle’s drag, yet still a fully realized attempt at exposing and revealing the darkest layers of expression and resignation. The perfect soundtrack to a rainy day or indulgence in self-pity. The kind of record anyone can appreciate and take comfort in, at one time or another.

Julianna Barwick’s Asthmatic Kitty Records debut, The Magic Place, is a nine-piece full-length album of magic and solace, bursting joy and healing tones. Julianna’s mostly-a-capella music is built from her voice multi-tracked through a loop station. There’s more backing instrumentation on this one than on previous albums but it’s the vocals—soaring high in reverb-drenched, wordless harmonies—that matter most here. It’s the layered fragments and pieces that become an intricate pattern through technology; it’s the sound of a rising thing, a big group harmony as a splash of sunlight through a car window, a sound that feels like hope and ascendance and patience and intimacy.

Her inspiration here is the a capella church hymns she grew up singing; the way a roomful of diverse voices can join together to fill up a space. Says Julianna about her church singin’ days, “You could really hear all the layers, harmonies, rounds, the men and the women, the claps… everything. Some of those hymns are so beautiful.”

Like Sigur Rós’s ethereal glossolalia, there’s a very particular joy in listening to Julianna’s music. Free of the constraints of narrative and traceable language, it’s the same joy in giving yourself over to opera in a foreign language, of letting go of your pesky rational mind and allowing the feeling to come through in the voices and performance. The title track is next, a reverb-y beauty queen that soars to Promethean heights and builds its own kind of safe haven in the clouds. Even the gaps between songs are essential to the album’s listening experience—a sigh between stories or silence-as-drone, each second important. The New York Times called the pauses between Julianna’s songs, “the small pleasure of a chance to breathe between the greater pleasures of not wanting to have to.” Meet The Magic Place. It’s a great place to be…